While other kids stressed about homework and prom dates, Jason Smith was worried about keeping up with his growing clientele base.
At the age of 16, Smith created Jason's Total Lawn Care, his own landscaping business that started as a teenager cutting grass and grew into a full-fledged company with more than 100 clients.
"It was a great experience for me," said the Bloomingdale High School graduate, now 28. "It just grew and eventually my company even started doing work for the school. My senior year, I'd be inside taking economics and outside there would be two of my employees working on the grounds. It taught me a lot, and I was lucky to do it that young, because living with my parents and being in business, I learned a lot about being ethical and doing things right."
After graduating from Bloomingdale High, Smith's interest turned from landscaping to paving work. His natural creativity led toward redesigning back yards and patios into outdoor living spaces, something that is now his specialty with his current company, Outdoor Impressions. He's since sold off his landscaping business.
"I started doing some paving after high school, and it just sort of evolved into being outdoor living oriented," Smith said. "Over the last five or six years as the economy has been in a slump, we've found a trend of people investing in their homes and wanting to use outdoor areas to entertain their guests."
Eventually, the Do It Yourself Network found Smith via a Google search in 2010. The network contacted Smith to come on its popular show "Yard Crashers," but at first he wasn't sure what to make of their pitch.
"I almost thought it was a scam," Smith said. "They e-mailed me out of nowhere and wanted me to show them some work and interview to go on the show. But we did anyway, and eventually we got a call saying that they had selected us. We did it, and we had a blast. The show is really like it looks, you actually have that amount of time to get the project done."
The show takes back yards that are in disarray and morphs them into domestic paradises over the span of two days. The lucky households are usually picked by the show's producers and host Ahmed Hassan.
Smith and Outdoor Impressions will once again be featured on the show, having already filmed two episodes late last year that will air this May 16 and 22. Smith is excited about what the future holds for Outdoor Impressions after the amount of praise and credibility heaped on the company after its last TV appearance.
"The exposure and the credibility we gain from it are two of the biggest benefits of doing it," Smith said. "It's great that they bring in local businesses and use them on the show, and then the show will re-run throughout the year. We've picked up projects where people see what we can do and they add another phase on to it and spend as much time out there as they do in the kitchen in their house. It's helped us build a name where 70 percent of our customers are coming back and doing more than just one project with us."
Most of Smith's work has been done in the Brandon, Valrico, Bloomingdale, FishHawk and Riverview areas, but his company, which now has 24 employees, is set to expand again as it looks to open a new satellite location off of Bay to Bay Boulevard in South Tampa.
"I think our company just goes to show you that there are people in my generation that are still willing to work hard," Smith said. "I mean, I missed out on a lot of things in high school my last two years because I went to school and I went to work and that was it. But I had fun, and the experience has paid off for me in the long run."
At 28, Smith is already a successful entrepreneur. While he enjoys his work, it's the job security that goes along with it that he likes the most.
"I always wanted to be my own boss," Smith said. "I love the fact that my business can provide a life for my family. It's so rewarding that we can take a blank back yard and two weeks later we've created a paradise with our own hands. It's rewarding instead of feeling like you're just passing paper around."
Outdoor Impressions is located at 2224 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico, where Smith and his staff plan on having a watch party with some of their customers for the premiere of the episodes they'll be featured in. For more information about the company, visit the Outdoor Impressions website.